KWS Director General (DG) Brig (Rtd.) John M. Waweru, BIDCO Africa Ltd. Group Director Chris Diaz and other partners signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) at KWS headquarters, February 8, 2021. The MoU will see communities living adjacent to protected areas prone to Human-wildlife conflict (HWC), benefit from growing sunflowers and keeping bees.
The DG expressed KWS’ commitment at seeing the project come to fruition, saying that obtaining community support by having them benefit directly from living adjacent to wildlife is a win-win for all, considering that a majority of wildlife live outside protected areas. “Human Wildlife Co-existence will be amplified if communities have a sense of ownership, and benefit from proximity to wildlife,” he said. DG said that KWS would buy the sunflower seeds from or through BIDCO, saying the Service was happy and committed to this, and future partnerships.
The DG however made a passionate appeal on behalf of communities, requesting partners to consider providing beehives due to financial constraints on the ground.
BIDCO Group Director Chris Diaz said that the company’s biggest objective is to work with communities, adding that their agribusiness-driven project has a membership of 30,000 farmers who grow sunflower and soya to sell back to BIDCO, ensuring revenues are ploughed back into communities to develop their livelihoods. Seeds are taken to Nakuru for oil extraction, and the cake is made into animal feeds, as such, that BIDCO also boosts agriculture business by providing high-nutrition feeds to all types of farm animals.
KWS and BIDCO also agreed to bring on board other partners such as Kenya Commercial Bank Foundation, which trains and develops entrepreneurship.
In response to KWS’ request, Mr. Diaz said that BIDCO would have a discussion with other stakeholders, to provide the beehives.
John Kariuki, Head Agribusiness Development, said that this project comes at a unique time, when most farmers are reeling from the effects of Covid19, stating there is already a technical staff in Amboseli working with the team there.
Managing Director Agriculture Venture, a fully-female-owned company, Pauline Kamwara, said that her company is incorporating beekeeping in sunflower production, which increases sunflower yields and produces extra revenue streams from sales of honey. Their Corporate Social Responsibility consists of free training targeting women and youth in the communities.
KWS Deputy Director Devolution and Community Service Dickson Lesimirdana, explained the idea behind the project which focuses on the Amboseli ecosystem, a Human Wildlife Conflict (HWC) hotspot.
Amboseli’s wildlife mostly depend on dispersal areas, a majority of which lie outside protected areas. Of all the HWC experienced in the Amboseli ecosystem, 90% of them involve crop raiding, with 80% of perpetrators being elephants.
The project discussions between KWS and BIDCO Africa Ltd. commenced in August, 2020, and also involved County Agricultural Officers. The target was to plant sunflowers during the short rains that year, because research has shown that elephants are not attracted to sunflowers as a food source, thus planting it would uplift community livelihoods and lower HWC incidents.
Under this MoU, BIDCO responsibilities include providing an offtake market for all sunflowers grown by communities; undertaking the training and sensitization on sunflower farming to communities; ensuring prompt payment of harvested and delivered flowers to farmers and connect communities to a honey value chain player (Agriculture Venture Ltd.).
In turn, KWS will identify appropriate areas for location of projects and pilot them before scaling to other locations which experience serious Human Elephant Conflict such as Kimana and Loitoktok; in 2020, KWS facilitated identification and mobilization of communities in the identified locations, and provided seeds to the farmers identified. 178 farmers were registered and the exercise is set to continue this week, targeting 300 farmers to take advantage of the planting season.
BIDCO Africa Ltd. is one of the largest manufacturers in the region, operating from 22 countries in Africa and employing thousands, especially women. The company also grows roses for export and manufactures hygiene products, instant spaghetti, cooking oils and carbonated juices, among others.